Interview Question: "Why Shouldn't We Hire You?"

Businesswoman interviewing prospective employee
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On a list of challenging interview questions, "Why shouldn't I hire you?" is likely high up in the ranking, if not at the top. Questions like these can really throw you off your game … especially if you don’t prepare for them ahead of time.

This question is a more antagonistic version of the usual inquiry, “What’s your biggest weakness?” The primary strategy with both these questions is to use your answer as a chance to highlight a strength. Answered correctly, it's actually a chance for you to shine!

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

This type of curveball question has two purposes from an interviewer's perspective. Firstly, recruiters want to gain a balanced view of candidates during an interview, which includes both your strengths and limitations. This question can help uncover some of your weaknesses.

Secondly, hiring managers want to see how you handle yourself with your back against the wall and in a situation that forces you to think on your feet.

How to Answer the Job Interview Question “Why Shouldn’t We Hire You?”

The best way to answer this question is to twist it around to emphasize a strength. Choose a quality that can be seen as a positive within this company culture or work role (whereas in another corporate setting or job, this same quality might not be embraced).

For example, if you prefer jobs and companies that reward independent thinking, you might respond, "You shouldn't hire me if you are looking someone who thrives in an environment where management strictly prescribes how to perform each task. I work better when I'm given some general guidelines with the desired outcome and am then allowed some leeway regarding how I would carry out that task."

Examples of the Best Answers

If you're looking for someone to lead meetings, then I'm probably not the right fit for this position. I'm better suited to being an active participant in meetings than to lead them. But where I really shine is execution — so often, a meeting generates a lot of great ideas, but then none of them are completed. One of my strengths is following up on meeting tasks and completing projects in general.

Why It Works: This answer shows that you take the question seriously and mentions something that would be a weakness in some roles – but not, presumably, in the one for which you’re interviewing.

You shouldn't hire me if an extrovert wouldn't fit in well at your company or in this job. I thrive on interaction with colleagues and customers. I can stay on task, but building positive relationships with people is my clear priority.

Why It Works: For sales or customer-facing roles, extroversion is a bonus, if not an outright requirement of the job.

When it comes to projects, I always hit my deadline. But I have to admit; I'm not great at arriving to work at 9 a.m. sharp. If it's important to your company to have employees arrive bright and early, full of energy, then I'm likely not the right match. I'm a classic night owl, which means I tend to work late at the office.

Why It Works: In this response, you’re careful not to give the impression that you’re lazy or unable to get the job done, but you’re honest about how you work best.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Focus on a Personality Trait: Another example might be to emphasize a personality trait that might be viewed favorably in some jobs, but not in others.

Be Honest: No employee is free from weaknesses — that's simply impossible. So, if you respond by saying, "There's no reason not to hire me," it'll sound disingenuous. And, it'll also indicate to your interviewer that you're either immodest or not good at thinking on your feet. Neither of these is a good outcome. Even if it's something small, like being a bit slow-moving in the morning, mention something.

Mention a Weakness — Carefully: Another option for answering this question is to mimic how you'd respond to "What's your greatest weakness?" Mention a weakness, then discuss how you're working to improve in that area. Again, be sure not to mention a weakness that will make you ill-suited for the position.

What Not to Say

Don't Be Overly Negative: You do have to give a reason why the interviewer wouldn't want to hire you. But that negative bit shouldn't be the focus of the answer. Make sure to pivot quickly in your answer to something that's more positive.

Don't Provide a Disqualifying Reason: If the job calls for a detail-oriented person, this is not the moment to confess, "I'm one of those people who'd forget my head if it wasn't attached!" Make sure your answer doesn't point out a flaw that is a deal-breaker for the position.

Don’t Skip Answering Altogether: As mentioned before, you do have to give a reason why employers might not want to hire you, and it should be reasonable and honest. Yes, you should focus on the positive, but failing to respond to the question at hand does not reflect well on you as a candidate.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • What is your greatest weakness? – Best Answers
  • What is your greatest strength? – Best Answers
  • What can you do better for us than other candidates? – Best Answers
  • What are the most difficult decisions to make? – Best Answers
  • What are the most and least challenging parts of this job? – Best Answers

Key Takeaways

KNOW THE JOB: Review the job qualifications, company culture, and mission before the interview.

EMPHASIZE A STRENGTH: Turn the question around so that you can highlight your skills and abilities.

CAREFULLY SHARE A WEAKNESS: If you choose to share a weakness, make sure it’s not disqualifying.

BE HONEST: Don’t claim to be perfect or have qualities you don’t actually possess.